Verve Photo: The New Breed of Documentary Photographers
December 13, 2010
Amanda Rivkin (b.1984, USA) is currently based in Brooklyn while completing a master’s degree in security studies: terrorism and sub-state violence at the Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. Previously based in her hometown, Chicago, where she travels frequently, her work has appeared on the front pages of Le Monde, The New York Times, and The Washington Post and Courrier Japan, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and The London Sunday Times Magazine. She received a Young Explorers Grant from the Expeditions Council of the National Geographic Society to travel to Azerbaijan, Georgia, and eastern Turkey for a project, “Exploring the Evolving Oil Economy: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline,” in 2010. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Sarah Lawrence College.
About the Photograph:
“This photo was taken on a beach in the Bibi Heybat section of southern Baku, Azerbaijan on the 4th of July, 2010, the same day Hillary Clinton visited the oil rich nation on a tour of the region. We went in two cars from the center of Baku to the remote, polluted beach off of a major highway that goes to the Sangachal Oil Terminal, where natural gas and oil from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and Shah Deniz offshore oil and gas fields is pumped into several pipelines: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the route of which I was ostensibly following as a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant recipient, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Sepsa pipeline to the Black Sea. The day before when traveling the other direction from the Neftcala region towards the capitol, Baku, we stumbled across a still as of then under construction villa with a harbored yacht belonging to an uncle of the first lady, a site a guard reluctantly allowed me to photograph a few snaps of and that naturally included no such visible oil facility just off shore.”
“The group of people who took me to this beach were Bakuvian urban elites, a banker, a PhD student in Germany, among others who had professional jobs that ensured that when they went to the beach it was more private, less polluted and in turn more expensive. It was a strange site, the two groups representing the two Azerbaijans. The fact that many on this particular beach swam in clothing or underclothing was something that surprised the group I had traveled there with, reminding me of something one very affluent and sharp consultant to several local oligarchs, the sort of person who can survive under any regime, told me privately: “We have no idea how the rest of the country lives.”